The new pipe-less skimmer by CAD lights is definitely a shakeup in skimmer design, and a heck of a space saver. Any design that reduces skimmer footprint is progress of skimmer evolution, as it will lead to incorporating larger skimmers into smaller sumps and cabinets. But the question is, does the PLS-100 skim well and is it easy to use? The answer is yes, definitely!
The PLS-100 skimmer measures in at 4.75″(L) x 4.75″(W) x 18.75″(H). The reported airflow is 315 L/H at 20-watts, and is rated for tanks with heavy bioload up to 60-gallons. Protein skimmer ratings for aquarium sizes can be quite subjective, but in this case the estimate seems about right.
First let’s talk about the design and build quality. Inside the box, there was a well built skimmer, the acrylic thickness is sturdy, it feels like a skimmer that can handle a few bumps. The pipeless design results in a very small footprint with water that exits the body through two holes in the base of the skimmer. The holes continue through two plates of acrylic, and water flow is adjusted by how well aligned the holes are.
The pump sits below this part of the skimmer, but also above a bottom plate that slides out and holds the sound insulating suction cups. The pump brand is unfamiliar, but resembles a large maxijet in appearance. Ultimately, the pump provided worked really well and was quiet. But more on that later. The biggest gripe about the design would have to be the air muffler. The air muffler is thumb screwed onto the lid of the skimmer. So you have to remove it or disconnect the airline when cleaning the cup. But this is a minor gripe. You could easily relocate the muffler, with a longer airline. The skimmer was also very quiet without the muffler.
The skimmer replaced a Sea Side Aquatics ES5 skimmer on a 70-gallon system. The Sea Side was doing a great job, and did it quietly. The system is fairly new, and the bioload is very light. Any skimmer on this tank would have to work extra hard to extract a good cup of gunk. After a 10 minute vinegar bath, the CAD lights skimmer took off where the Sea Side stopped. First impression was that the skimmer is quiet and the bubble sizes were nice and tiny. The cup has a nice rubber ring that makes for a nice seal on the body. Adjusting the water level was very simple. However, the new pipe-less design does take a little finesse. The tiniest turn of the skimmer body will raise or lower the water level and it is very easy to overdo it. Once dialed in, the skimmer was truly “set and forget”. It was placed into service shortly before a busy holiday week and went ignored for a few days unsupervised. When it came time to check on things, the cup was full with some seriously dark skimmate. The result was quite impressive for a $175 skimmer.
Two days after cleaning, it was 25% full of dark skimmate again. The next test came when some overzealous carbon-dosing caused a cloudy bacterial bloom. The skimmer promptly took care of the bloom, and water clarity was restored in a matter of days. Maintenance is fairly simple. As mentioned earlier, there is the gripe about the air muffler being thumbscrewed on the cup lid. Beyond that, everything is easy to disassemble. The body disconnects from the baseplate and pump with a quick pull. The pump pulls off as well.
Overall, the PLS-100 is a nifty little skimmer. If your budget for a skimmer is less than $200 or if you are tight on space, this skimmer should be on your short list. It would be hard to find another skimmer with a similar footprint that skims this well.